tv The Stream Al Jazeera October 25, 2013 7:30pm-8:01pm EDT
castro. and the documentary, the cuban e coauthor of raul castro and the. so luke, cuba is nothing if it'. and some even say baseball is k. how embedded is the sport in cun >> thank you so much for having. in cuba, baseball is something . this is the crown jewel of the . >> talk about the challenges thy came into play. >> to be fair, even with this n. and i'll get into that at some .
is the process of political lib. because now cuba because the government is allowing people to ralph and professional players tore appear. >> arturo, the community has a lot opinion on that. cuba is only looking to "slave out baseball players to create a source of it can for their failed economy, and amy says, i understand that cubans are afraid of over development. but perhaps the baseball players are up and coming: okay, roberto, we'll go it you. professional experts in cuba were banned in 1961, and people
used to say that professional sports in the mlb wera business akin to slavery, and why all of a sudden a change of heart? >> it was not as desperate for cash as it is now. and that is the only reason it happened. they were getting gigantic sums from the soviet union, so they didn't have to play the yankee card. and by the way, we're starting the show partly from false premises. the word embargo has come up several times. viewers and the listeners should know that the united states has been one of cuba's top food suppliers, and almost half a million people visited cuba from the united states last year, which has doubled the number that used to visit cuba when it
was, remember, a tourist playground in the 1950s, plus the cash flow from the united states to cuba last year, it was estimated from four to five billion dollars. primarily in the form of remittances. the cash flow from the soviet union to cuba used to be $3.8 billion when it was an una bashed soviet colony. so we have more cash flow from a nation that supposedly embargoes to it than used to come in its colonial master. there's nothing like an embargo, but there are sanctions >> luke brings up this idea of cash flow, and some believe that it exploits the athletes with the heavy tax burden on them.
and who is really benefiting from this policy >> we have to look at the policy if it's reality. there's no way that a cuban baseball player under cuban citizenship is going to be able to participate in baseball. they start training at the beginning of september, and the championship doesn't end million the first or second week, depending on the weather in june. that means that as a cuban ballplayer, if you're lucky enough to be a representative of the cuban national team. so you hit pause there, and if yourself if the new york yankees or the florida marlins, would they allow a ballplayer to fly into the united states in the middle of june and miss spring training and you want to call it sanctions, but usually baseball teams cannot pay cuban athletes as long as they're cuban citizens, and that goes back to the embargo act. so however you want to sane sign
t. that's where it gets tricky. first, the rise of the major league baseball, cuba has had to do something within the island that says look, it's not our fault that you can't go play in the united states. we're not restricting you or stopping you anymore. please go. but in reality, they don't understand what exactly it entails. and at the end of the day, it's a very smooth pr move by cuba. >> all right, we have representative serrano, he says: and i want to give this video shout out from omar. >> my name is omar, and i'm the human rights director of the cuban rights foundation.
restrictions for cuban players to play in the major leagues. to grant a passport to any cuban player who wants to reside and play in the u.s. cubans can play in the mexican league, and to still play in the u.s., they need special permission >> you heard humberto and you just heard luke and the video comment and what's your response >> first of all, i want to say that at the same time, the representative in congress from the bronx, from the area where this great yankee stadium is, i think his proposal, his cuban baseball diplomacy act is a great legislation. and basically, it's to give choices to people. if the cuban government has sole restriction for the cuban players, and i think this is right, luke is right when he
mentions some technical issues, and he's right when he mentions that the cuban government has control over the pass port like many countries do, but i see there are additional controls. but in reality, the best way to deal with the war is to win the breach. and i think that it has -- serrano has been a great democrat with great values, and he's basically promoting an opening, saying that the united states will allow cuban players to come to the united states, and he will put the ball on the other side. and to say that there is no embargo and there's no reservation, those who have the problem want to commit that we have any prohibition in allowing cuban players to come to the
united states and play, i am all for signing that. so i think that will be in the end the main thing. >> i'm going to pause you there. we have to hit a break, but you mentioned this idea of bridge building, and if you want to get into it in the next segment, is it naive to think that sports can be part of that bridge building. and we want to ask this question, what if the rolls were reversed and what if americans were trying to get into cuban baseball. >> how old are you? >> nine. >> how old were you when you first started working out here? >> seven. >> fault lines how children are hired by us agriculture to help put food on america's tables. >> in any other industry kids need to be 16 years old to be able to work. you don't see any of that in agriculture. >> they don't ask, "is she 12?". they just want their job done. >> how many of you get up before
>> so that's an excerpt of luke's documentary, the cuban dream. luke, you traveled to cuba to produce it, and legally, that's tricky because of the embargo and the sanctions, whatever you want to call it, and how did you do it in >> well, it helps being a cuban-american. in 2009, president obama allowed cubans to visit family. and i still have family in cube, and that was my entryway into the country. so in regards to the project itself, i believe in the power of good and the power of common loves, and with baseball being my national pastime as an american, and being the pastime in my blood of my father's country, i thought it will be an incredible opportunity to do something that no one has done before. to play in cuba's major leagues, and be the first foreigner and think outside of the box. >> and did it exceed any of your
expectations? >> the rollercoaster in 2012 and this year, there were ups and downs, but i would have to say my experience in cuba, and the people that i met and the barriers, and to the and we were able to represent the power of connection and how it goes beyond the scope of politics. >> well, luke, it seems that we have tension between the united states and cuba with the embargo. president kennedy announced it in 1962:
very heated. and geb, president obama criticizes cuba and cuba criticizes the united states, and has it really accomplished anything with intended goals? what's your response in >> the so-called embargo has been a spectacular success. for instance, it has kept the american taxpayer among the very few in the world that has not been stiffed by the castro region. as i mentioned, we're among cuba's top food suppliers and have been for close to a decade, but the only stipulation is that castro pays us cash up front. what? because every single person on earth that has extended credit to cuba has been stiffed. and by the way, the viewers have to realize what we're talking
about. with the dominican republic, folks, cuba is a state sponsor of terrorism. the regime that runs cuba today jailed political prisoners at a higher rate than did stalin's regime during the great terror, and they murdered more political prisoners in the first three years in power, in '61, than hitler's regime murdered in its first six. now, when it came to sanctions against south africa, i'm betting most of the people would say, yeah, that's a terrible apartheid regime and here's a regime that did ten to 12 times the rate. oh, let's cuddle up to them and let's be good to them. so just so the viewers realize
what we're talking about. >> arturo, is this cud ling up misplaced? >> i think that he's giving the version of promoting a policy that has been immoral and illegal. the united nations since 1992 has been con depping the embargo. in terms of america, robert ken, the brother of the president who declared the embargo, in 1963, wrote a memo to the secretary of state in which he said that the prohibition to travel to cuba was against american libertarian values. and as i said, democracy is at its highest when it practices what it preaches. ironically, today it's easier for a cuban to travel to the
united states than for an american to travel to cuba, and i think this is nonsense. >> luke, listen, obviously the politics here are incredibly polarizing, but can baseball play a roll here in some form of diplomacy? >> i'm not a politician, i'll let humberto and arturo go head-to-head, and i'm a filmmaker. i can personally attest. there's a desire and a need for change, and all i did was use baseball's bridge, as a common meeting point between my cuban friends and families who didn't get along with us. because we're seen as the imperialist capitalist pigs who left it in the dust. at the end of the day, politics has differed for moreover 50 years, and we can agree on that. but at the end of the day, it's about people coming together and
realizing, so focusing on building the new, and that to me is important, regardless of what's taking place today. we want the future generations of cuba to discover their own voice, and that's what my film is, and we all have dreams. my friends in cuba don't have the ability to step out of their doors in the morning and say, i want to be a major league baseball player today or i want to be an restaurant. thaastronaut. >astronaut.
>> well i want to interject quick. the focus is on people. and when it's government sanctions, it's complicated, but when we focus on people coming together and celebrating life, and at least coming to the dinner table and breaking bread. anything is possible. when you have possibility, that's when things get interesting, and i think that cuba needs that, and at the end of the day, my dad sums it up, he hit the nail on the head. when you look around cuba, and you see the brand-new audies and the mercedes and you see the mansions that the elite that the power at be in cuba has, and you stop and look at the ordinary joe, the true heart and soul of cuba, they're not the ones -- they're the ones that are being penalized. it's not the powers at be. they get the best food and they get to have the life with the private jets. >> so the question is, how does this move forward? and we're going to discuss this
after the break. cuban americans have driven the policy for decades and what do they want to see happen now? tweet us your thoughts. antonio mora brings you smart conversation that challenges the status quo with unexpected opinions and a fresh outlook. including yours. >> what do you think? >> consider this. unconventional wisdom.
do you see the relations going from here >> until there's a change in leadership in cuba. from everything that i hear, he's a nice guy. no one doubts that cubans like americans and americans like cube as, but the problem is, there's a totalitarian and stalinist regime in between them. luke would have never gotten a visa to go to cuba except the regime recognized that it's cash in our pockets. >> that's not true. >> my vote, i can guarantee you that. >> humberto, you made some assumptions that aren't true. you haven't done background and research. if you read my blog, my family, my brothers, my filmmakers, i wasn't cleared by cuba.
most of my filming. 85% of my filming in cuba was gorilla shooting. i had to. i was under the radar. because it was baseball first, and they didn't realize it. so to say that i'm complying with the regime is a bit ambitious on your part. but i have family members that share your perspective. >> arturo, give a listen to tony, and i want you to respond, arturo. >> what we want are relations with cuba, and i say that we lift the embargo. the only thing that it accomplishes is allowing castro a scapegoat. and so i don't see how this policy will lead to improved u.s.-cuban relations. what athletes the after all is the same thing that cubans want, the opportunity to live freely in a democratic society.
and that's something that neither castro has been able to put on the table. >> art tooo >> that's true. the main problem that the embargo has is that it's very, very counter-productive. it makes difficult to show america in the contrast to the totalitarian features that the cuban government has. it also provides the perfect alibi for the emergency measures that they say they have. even the prohibitions that were in place until october of last year, they were in place because the cuban government said that they were under siege.
good evening, everyone, welcome to al jazeera america. i'm john siegenthaler in new york. lack of trust. european leaders accuse the u.s. of spying on them, and warn it could hurt the fight against terrorism. >> we have every intent to not stop until it is smoothly operating. >> at a loss for words the secretary of health on fixing the health care website and her promise to americans. and education changes, the president's message for students in school today. he is hoping congress is listening too. ♪